Every year Bento Sushi hosts a sushi competition, inviting their 2000 sushi chefs from all over the world to think outside of the box and create an innovative, new roll that will be offered for a limited time at Bento locations! The top 6 rolls, chosen by region, and their chefs gather in Toronto to face off in person. The finalists are given an hour to plate their creation for both a panel of judges to critique and for guests to vote for the People’s Choice award. This year’s event was held at The Chef’s House, which meant all the chefs had access to a full kitchen to cook and roll.
Disclaimer: All food and drinks reviewed below were provided complimentary. All opinions expressed below are wholly mine.
The Bento Sushi competition was first held in 2012 to showcase the talent and creativity of their chefs. Now an annual event, the champion gets more than just a cash prize, bragging rights and having their creation served all over North America. It could be the next California Roll. Bento Sushi currently has over 540 locations, including a presence in several States, and their menu has expanded to include sushi burritos, udon and bento boxes.
While the competitors were hard at work, guests mingled, sipping on wine and munching on an endless parade of sushi platters. As always, the salmon and bbq eel pieces were the first to get snatched up, followed by the Salmon Volcano Roll. I also quite enjoyed the vegetarian platter that had pieces of inari and tamago nigiri. As the timer wound down, beautifully plated rolls were lined up ready for the judges. Quickly, the counter at the kitchen became packed with onlookers vying for the best shot. Compared to last year’s competition, I thought the aesthetics of this year’s rolls definitely leveled up.
The 6 rolls in this year’s competition were:
- Sushi Hero 1: Jie Xu, Toronto – Eight Treasures Rooster Roll (with gold flakes and served with a variety of sauces)
- Sushi Hero 2: Haruo Oikawa, New York – Cupcake Roll (delicious shredded sweet potato wrapping)
- Sushi Hero 3: Qing Feng Tan, Winnipeg – Chasu Nakudan Roll (surprising use of asparagus)
- Sushi Hero 4: Kelly Lim, St. Catharines – Sakura Roll (pop of flavour from pickled radish)
- Sushi Hero 5: Tony Wang, Calgary – Jiong Roll (intricate and geometric)
- Sushi Hero 6: King Yeung, Montreal – Spicy Strawberry Roll (strawberries and crispy flakes)
Of the six entries, my favourite was the Sakura Roll. I really liked the creaminess from the slices of avocado and the sweet and sour from the slices of pickled radish. Whenever I eat sushi, I pair it with a ton of pickled ginger, so for me Sakura roll was perfect. Bonus was the topping of red and yellow tobiko, adding a bit more sea flavour. I also really enjoyed the Cupcake Roll by Haruo Oikawa, who was last year’s winner. The roll was incredibly creamy and sweet from the crunchy sweet potato exterior. However, I found I could only eat a few pieces of the roll as it was quite heavy.
After the votes were tallied, the winner of the People’s Choice was the Cupcake Roll by Haruo Oikawa! Then it was time to announce the judges’ choice. One of this year’s judges was fellow blogger Karen, who carefully analyzed each roll for visual appearance, taste and creativity. With all the scores in, the winner of this year’s Sushi Championship was the Sakura Roll by Kelly Lim. Second place went to the Cupcake Roll and third to the beautiful Eight Treasures Rooster Roll.
I can’t wait to treat my tastebuds to the Sakura roll again!